Standing out from the crowd

Last night I spoke to students at Aberdeen University about Sales. I was given total flexibility about content, so I decided to speak to them about how to sell themselves in a crowded job market.

Let me give you some context. Depending on which publications you read, the average graduate job will have between 60 and 200 applications. For one job. Crazy, huh?!?

On average, companies will interview around 6-10 people, so your chance of getting an interview is between 5-10%. Not your chance of getting the job, just getting the chance to meet. Those are long odds, and even though I’m not a betting man, I know that I wouldn’t be backing a horse at 60-1.

Recently I recruited a new role for a client of mine. We received 60 applications and interviewed 6. Weeding through those CVs was one of the least enjoyable things I’ve done in my life. It truly sapped my soul, and if pins had been handy, I’d have happily started sticking them in my eyes.

The vast majority of these CVs did nothing to sell the person to me. They’d given zero thought to how they could capture my attention. It was just your standard CV, typed on Word, in an ugly font. Half way through, my eyes were bleeding.

But it wouldn’t take much to stand out. You might not be a designer, but you probably know someone who is. And if not, get onto Fiverr and find someone who could do it for you. Make it colourful, use a beautiful font. Make me want to read it. Write it in plain English, and ditch the jargon. Speak to me as though we were having a conversation.

I spoke to one young man in Aberdeen last night – he was from Mexico – and he explained that he’d had his cv designed as an infographic. Now that would capture my attention! But most people don’t think like that.

Remember, this is just about getting the interview. The odds are against you, so make an effort. The other things that will help will be if you can demonstrate that you know my business – you’ve done your research and you can refer to that in a covering email. Also, what work experience do you have? How many internships have you done? Where have you volunteered? You get the picture.

Then consider what would happen if I googled you (which I would before deciding to invite you for interview). What will I find? Do you have an online presence? Is it positive, or will I find a tonne of drunk pics and abusive tweets? This stuff matters. Have you got a blog? Maybe you create videos, so I’ll find you on YouTube?

Stand out. Be different. Make me want to meet you.

We’ll talk about how to approach the interview another day. For now, get creative. And even if you’re not a student, this could just as easily apply to a funding application, an application to get into an accelerator program, or a sales presentation.

How can you stand out from the crowd?

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